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Individual Highlight

Finding beech bark disease resistant American beech trees: It’s in the genes!

Photo of Hiawatha National Forest personnel work together to set up a test for scale-resistance on a beech tree as part of a training workshop run by FS researchers.  Genetic markers identified in recent studies may allow resistant trees to be selected without using the type of testing shown here, which can take up to a year. Hiawatha National Forest personnel work together to set up a test for scale-resistance on a beech tree as part of a training workshop run by FS researchers. Genetic markers identified in recent studies may allow resistant trees to be selected without using the type of testing shown here, which can take up to a year. Snapshot : A Forest Service scientist and her collaborators have identified genetic markers that may help accelerate breeding and production of American beech trees with resistance to beech bark disease, a disease that has spread throughout New England, continuing as far south as Tennessee and as far west as Wisconsin, causing significant mortality.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Koch, Jennifer 
Research Location : Samples were collected from Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Maine, Pennsylvania, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. DNA extractions were performed in the Forest Service Delaware, Ohio lab. Genotyping and data analysis for the genome wide
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1214

Summary

American beech trees, an important source of food and habitat for wildlife in eastern forests, are threatened by beech bark disease. This disease is caused by an invasive insect that feeds on the bark, creating entry points for fungal infection that weakens and can even kill the tree. Naturally occurring trees with resistance to the insect are the basis of a breeding program. Methods of identifying trees with resistance to the scale insect have been developed, but take a year to get results. Identification of genes associated with resistance could help expedite this screening process. A recent collaborative study that includes the Forest Service, University of California at Davis, and Pennsylvania State University researchers compared frequencies of more than 3,000 genetic markers between a set of 254 resistant trees and 260 susceptible trees collected from six different northeastern states and two Canadian provinces. Four markers, all found within a single gene, were found to be associated with resistance. These markers have the potential to be used to accelerate breeding by identifying resistant trees and seedlings through marker-assisted selection instead of long-term screens. Additional research on the candidate resistance gene may provide insight into the underlying mechanisms that allow some trees to resist the scale insect.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of California at Davis

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